Sunday, March 25, 2007

No shortcuts

If you ever had doubts about differences between Lou Piniella and Dusty Baker, take a look at the last few days. On Thursday in Peoria Mark Prior had his first decent outing of the spring and declared himself ready to go:

"We have about a week left to go," he said. "I'm ready to rock 'n' roll and get out of this place and move on."

On Friday the Cubs other often-injured RHP Kerry Wood threw one inning of scoreless baseball and decided he was ready to head north with the club. It's hard to fault the two righthanders who are chomping at the bit to go out there and prove the skeptics (this page included)wrong. The trouble with the declarations of readiness is Dusty Baker is no longer at the helm of this club. Lou Piniella is not buying any of it. His response to Wood was great:

When Piniella was told Wood was wondering why he was being singled out for not being ready when no one else had thrown in back-to-back games, he turned the tables on his veteran reliever.

"He shouldn't be questioning anybody, truthfully," Piniella said. "All I'm saying is when we [say we want] back-to-back and two-inning [stints], that's the proper way to get the bullpen prepared for the start of a season.

"With Kerry that hasn't been the plan, obviously, and the reason I say that is because he has had a couple of setbacks. Now, if he hadn't had those setbacks, that would be the plan."

Wood is scheduled to pitch one-inning stints Monday, Wednesday and either Friday or Saturday in Las Vegas. Piniella has said he will have his roster set by the time the team leaves Arizona on Thursday, so Wood doesn't figure to get a reprieve because he won't have the innings, the back-to-backs or the two-inning stint.

Piniella seemed surprised to hear Wood was told he didn't need back-to-back outings in spring training.

"I don't know what was talked about in the off-season," Piniella said. "All I know is the way I've been preparing bullpens … I've always had pretty good success with my bullpens, kept them nice and healthy and strong all year. But you have to lay the foundation in spring training.

"You can't not use them here that way, and then all of a sudden the first week of the season you start piling up work for them. They're not ready for it. That's how you hurt yourself."

" have to lay the foundation in spring training." Amen Uncle Lou! Neither Mark Prior nor Kerry Wood has laid that foundation this spring (or in recent springs for that matter).

Saturday's impressive performance by Wade Miller in Scottsdale pretty much locked up the fifth starters spot for Miller and that leaves Mark Prior in extended spring training where he belongs. If Prior over the next few weeks can make the advances that Miller made this spring the Cubs will have a real good problem on their hands come mid- to late-April.

Piniella met with Wood on Saturday and the rhetoric may be nicer, but the message is the same. Wood and Piniella seem to be heading for a fight at the end of the week. (Can somebody dust off the Dibble/Piniella fight footage for Woody?) Kerry's odds of winning this one are very slim. Anyways here's what Lou said about his talk with Kerry Wood:

"Basically I told him what I want him to do is make sure he's ready when the season starts," Piniella said. "Because I'd like to see Woody pitching for us for a long, long time in our bullpen. We haven't rushed him, or anybody else, so there's no sense in really, really rushing him this last week in camp to make a major-league roster."

Piniella said Wood does not have to throw in back-to-back appearances yet. Wood is unlikely to go on the DL without a fight.

"He has been on the DL before and doesn't like that," Piniella said. "I don't want that for him either. But if he's not quite ready, [he has] to be honest with us and let us know."

While the previous Cub manager claimed to be in the "earn it business" it's starting to look like their new skipper really is. He doesn't care about the name on the back of the jersey. His expectations for the players are they do the work and be prepared for the season. It's a shame Wood and Prior didn't get the memo.

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